Digital Directions 2013 Takeaways

Written by Joseph Koivisto

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Writing for the POWRR Blog, Aaisha Haykal — University Archivist for Chicago State University — put together a great post about the Fundamentals of Creating and Managing Digital Collections Conference at the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor. In her post, she discusses the variety of sessions and workshops that occurred over the three-day event and shares some pictures from a tour of the Digital Conversion Unit or of the Technology Lab.

The most interesting part of the post is a list of conference takeaways, points that can be applied to any digital conservation environments. They are as follows:

  1. Know your institution, in terms of risk management (is some loss acceptable to you? who will be doing the metadata, how specific will it be?), budget, staffing (who responsibility is what), formats, mission, etc.
  2. It does not take much to get started with digital preservation-every little bit helps
  3. You really cannot do it alone (get assistance at every stage of the process)
  4. Modify standards, guidelines, and best practices to your institution, sometimes just good enough works
  5. Make your metadata interoperable and specific (ex. downstate and Illinois versus just downstate), so that when you merge records it is clear
  6. Approach stakeholders with a tailored message this can be done through workshops and one-on-one sessions. When involving IT, do not let them take over the project, this is your territory.
  7. Assessment of digital collections has to be done, either qualitative or quantitative.
  8. Document what you have done to the collections so that 1) those in the future can know and 2) that data was not lost in the transitions (bit count)
  9. Within the conversation of digital preservation we need to make clear the difference between preservation and access copies
  10. Learned more about the environment that digitization should be taking place in, in terms of lighting, monitors, and equipment.

Of this list, I found two points to be most insightful. First, standards, guidelines, and practices need to be custom tailored to the institution. Each institutional repository has unique needs and serves a particular collection and audience. Therefore, information professionals must design project standards and practices around the needs of the collection and the identified end users.

Second, information professionals must be wary of ceding control to IT staff that have been brought in to work on digital collections. Considering the increasingly tech-centric nature of conservation initiatives, information professionals need to make sure that governance does not change hands during the project time frame. How we do this is — again — something that will vary from institution to institution and project to project. However, acknowledging the issue prepares us to  better address the issues as they arise.

The original POWRR blog post can be found here.

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